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Benedict Cumberbatch has had a meteoric rise to stardom, becoming an A-lister and a fanboy’s favorite. He has a number of impressive movies and TV shows to his name and is considered a frontrunner to win the Academy Award for his performance in The Imitation Game. So let us look at Cumberbatch’s career so far and what the future has in store for him.
Cumberbatch grew up in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the wealthiest areas of London. He attended Harrow School, one of the most elite schools in Britain, as an art scholar and performed in the school’s dramatic arts society. He studied Drama at the University of Manchester and then gained a masters in Classical Acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Cumberbatch started his professional acting career in the theater, performing various Shakespearian roles at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park from 2001 to 2002. He also made appearances on British Television, having roles in miniseries like the Victorian drama Tipping the Velvet and Cold War spy drama Cambridge Spies. One of Cumberbatch’s first major roles was in the six episode comedy-drama Fortysomething, appearing as one of the sons of Paul Slippery (Hugh Laurie), a London doctor going through a mid-life crisis.
Cumberbatch first came to prominence in a leading role when he starred as a young Stephen Hawking in the BBC TV movie Hawking, first broadcast in 2004. Cumberbatch gave a brilliant performance as the famous scientist as he battles the scientific establishment when he writes his PhD thesis about the Big Bang while battling the early stages of his motor neuron disease, losing his ability to walk and speak. Cumberbatch himself earned a Golden Nymph Award for Television Film Best Performance by an Actor and a BAFTA TV Award nomination for best actor.
Following his success with Hawking Cumberbatch had a number of supporting roles in major movies such as Starter for 10, Amazing Grace, Atonement and The Other Boleyn Girl. He also continued performing in the West End, gaining a Best Supporting Actor Olivier Award in 2005 for his role as George Tesman in Hedda Gabler. And on television he had the lead role in BBC thriller mini-series The Last Enemy.
It was in 2010 when Cumberbatch made his big breakthrough when he starred in Steven Moffat’s modernization of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock. Cumberbatch quickly became a household name and won praise for his intelligent, yet cocky and arrogant portrayal of the famous detective and perfectly translated the character to modern London. Cumberbatch surpassed past portrayals of the character, including Robert Downey Jr’s version in the Warner Brothers film series.
Following his success on Sherlock, Cumberbatch earned more roles on film, television and the stage. Quickly after appearing in Sherlock Cumberbatch had supporting roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse and starred in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) at the Royal National Theatre. Directed by Danny Boyle, the play was met with critical praise for its ambition as Cumberbatch and Miller alternated between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature. Cumberbatch and Miller both went on to share the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor and Cumberbatch earned the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Play.
In 2012 Cumberbatch led the TV miniseries Parade’s End with Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon). Based on a series of novels by Ford Madox Ford and adapted by Sir Tom Stoppard, Parade’s End was a BBC, HBO and VRT co-production. Cumberbatch stars as Christopher Tietjens, a conservative English aristocrat who ends up in a love triangle with his with wife Sylvia (Hall) and a suffragette Valentine (Adelaide Clemens, Rectify). Cumberbatch and Hall earned Broadcasting Press Guild awards for best actor and actress.
Cumberbatch continued to please his fanboy fanbase when he earned villainous roles in Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit Trilogy. In both series Cumberbatch was on show stealing form. In Star Trek Into Darkness Cumberbatch got to play one of the series’ most iconic villains, being intimidating, showing off his action chops and being a big improvement on Eric Bana’s villain in the 2009 movie. He was prominently used in the promotional material for the movie. In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Cumberbatch plays the title dragon in a motion capture performance and was in some of the best scenes of that movie, perfecting bringing the cunning dragon to the life.
As well as blockbusters, Cumberbatch appeared in three awards bait movies, 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County. 12 Years a Slave was the best performing movie with Cumberbatch, along with most of the cast, being praised for his performance, playing a sympathetic Christian slave-owner who takes care of Solomon Northup on his plantation, but ultimately fails to save the slave, giving him to a brutal slave owner.
Cumberbatch’s big movie of 2014 is The Imitation Game, the bio-pic about mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing who lead efforts to break the German’s Enigma Code. The Imitation Game is already seen as a serious awards contender, winning the People’s Choice Award for Best Film at the 39th Toronto Film Festival. Cumberbatch’s performance was deserving of the praise he has received portraying Turing’s personal and professional struggles as he goes against the intelligence establishment, hides his homosexuality during a period when it was illegal and dealing with his own emotional issues. Cumberbatch is in good stead for at least nominations for the Academy Award and the BAFTA.
In the immediate future Cumberbatch will appear in the Penguins of Madagascar and the final Hobbit movie as both Smaug and The Necromancer. He is also set to start filming a feature length episode of Sherlock in January 2015 with a new series being filmed later in the year and is set to star in a production of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in London.
Cumberbatch is set to star alongside Johnny Depp in the crime-drama Black Mass which was written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furance), telling the story about the FBI and the Irish Mob in Boston uniting to take down the Mafia. Also on his books is a TV adaptation of Richard III for the BBC and PBS.
On the blockbuster front, Cumberbatch is lined up to star in Andy Serkis’ directorial debut and adaptation of The Jungle Book. Cumberbatch will star as the movie’s villain, the tiger Shere Khan, providing both the voice and motion capture for the character. He is also considered the favorite to star as the title character in one of Marvel’s Phase Three movies, Doctor Strange. It is news that has excited both Cumberbatch’s fan and Marvel enthusiasts, seeing him as perfect casting as the Sorcerer Supreme. Cumberbatch has yet to commit to the role but it would be a win-win situation for both the actor and the studio for them to team up.
Benedict Cumberbatch is deserving of his reputation and fanbase, an actor who has been able to balance artistic integrity and mainstream entertainment. He commits to any role he takes on and has had great success on film, television and stage. Cumberbatch is talented actor who has shown versatility and should at some point in his career add an Oscar to his trophy cabinet.